Telling the truth is not harrassment

May 26th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A fraudster’s victim who fought back has won a landmark battle to name and shame the man who scammed him and dozens of others.

Nearly two and a half years ago, Steve Taylor contracted Grant Norman King to build a sleepout for his elderly father behind the family home in West Auckland.

Taylor paid three-quarters of the price – $23,500 – as a deposit. The sleepout was never built and the money was not returned.

In a bid to get even, Taylor brought civil proceedings against King but when the cost of continuing the case became prohibitive, he took a different tack, setting up the website grantnormanking.com with the intention of warning others who might be drawn in.

Within months other victims were clamouring to tell their stories and it was not long before Taylor built a comprehensive timeline of King’s offending.

King then tried to turn the legal tables on Taylor by using the Act to sue Taylor and demand the website be taken down.

Taylor was forced into Auckland District Court to defend himself.

However, that was King’s mistake. “What he did was open up the opportunity for every other victim to tell their story, which was the very thing he was advocating against,” Taylor said.

Affidavits in support of Taylor’s cause flooded in and he said it was surreal to be standing in court with the public gallery full of people backing him.

In court Judge David Wilson sided with Taylor and said the website, with all its explosive accusations, could remain online. “It would be inappropriate if a man in Mr King’s position could close down postings of essentially factual material on the basis that it interferes with his commercial plans and deprives him of customers,” the judge said.

Exactly.

“I accept Mr King is distressed by the postings but in my view that distress arises because he would prefer potential customers were unaware of his history and is not such as justifies the making of restraining orders.”

Lawyer Madeleine Flannagan, who advised Taylor and has been the victim of online harassment herselft, said the judge’s decision showed free speech was alive and well.

She said the unique nature of the case, setting a new precedent in harassment laws, meant it was already being used by media law professors at Auckland University.

Taylor’s website also resulted in King being punished. Since setting up the website, Taylor said more than 70 victims had come forward, across a 32-year span, claiming losses of more than $3 million.

Nice.

Madeleine has commented:

The law appears to now stand that if someone repeatedly publishes attacks on another person online this action can constitute harassment under the act if the information is harmful, baseless and untrue. However, if the blogger has a lawful purpose for releasing the information and it is either true, or they have reasonable belief that it is true, then even if that information is highly offensive and causes distress, such conduct is lawful and does not fall foul of harassment law.

The judgement is below. I welcome it.

King v Taylor

d

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18 Responses to “Telling the truth is not harrassment”

  1. redqueen (562 comments) says:

    I think the expression is, ‘Just desserts’, but the fact that such a person can continue trading, even if now known for his business practices, is absurd. If that $3m represents fraudulent behaviour, and if he simply did not build something and refused to return the deposit, then surely criminal proceedings should be brought, rather than him ‘getting away with it’ because he can exhaust the financial resources of the victims.

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  2. George Patton (349 comments) says:

    I guess this is good news for Whaleoil over his case with Matt Blomfield.

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  3. secondcumming (92 comments) says:

    Finally, justice prevails…..well done JUDGE D M WILSON

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  4. Mobile Michael (451 comments) says:

    Nice to see some common sense from a Judge. And well done Steve Taylor.

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  5. b1gdaddynz (279 comments) says:

    Only use a LBP, don’t use anyone who needs payment up front because they can’t get a credit account with a merchant and only make progress payments.

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  6. jackinabox (776 comments) says:

    I guess that explains why the subjects of my blog, some of whom have threatened legal action, have not done so.

    “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Winston Churchill.

    http://bcops.wordpress.com/

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  7. gump (1,647 comments) says:

    >Telling the truth is not harrassment

    Actually telling the truth can be harassment in some circumstances.

    However in this case it’s pretty clear it wasn’t.

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  8. Harriet (4,969 comments) says:

    Good on you Steve. Well done.

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  9. jackinabox (776 comments) says:

    “Actually telling the truth can be harassment in some circumstances.”

    Example please.

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  10. metcalph (1,430 comments) says:

    Example please of truth telling harassment

    Putting up a website about how X wet beds…

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  11. Nigel Kearney (1,012 comments) says:

    It’s not freedom of expression if you can only avoid a penalty by paying lots of money to a lawyer to establish to the court’s satisfaction that your statements are true. The case should have been thrown out without ever going to trial.

    Freedom of expression for true statements only sounds good in theory, but in practice false statements have to be protected as well otherwise the barriers to speech are too high even if you can ultimately prove truth.

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  12. muggins (3,615 comments) says:

    Why on earth did Steve Taylor pay $23500 up front? You just don’t do that. Either pay by instalments for work in progress or pay once the job is completed to your satisfaction. Taylor should have known better.
    However he did a good job in outing Grant King so one has to give him credit for that.

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  13. gump (1,647 comments) says:

    @jackinabox

    “Example please”

    ——————

    The criminal definition of harassment is defined in the Harassment Act 1997.

    As an example. If you make contact with a person’s employer to pass on adverse information from that person’s past, your behaviour may fall into the definition of harassment if it’s combined with other breaches of the Act. What’s important is that the Harassment Act doesn’t take into account the truthfulness of the information that is passed to the employer.

    Because what is important in suspected cases of harassment is the intent of the behaviour. The behaviour becomes harassment when it has no lawful purpose.

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  14. cha (4,010 comments) says:

    Taylor paid three-quarters of the price – $23,500 – as a deposit.

    It’s almost like Mr Taylor had a big sign on his forehead…
    /

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  15. jackinabox (776 comments) says:

    “The behaviour becomes harassment when it has no lawful purpose.”

    Would trying to stop criminal harassment be a lawful purpose gump?

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  16. anticorruptionnz (215 comments) says:

    Harassment and defamation are routinely used to silence those who can warn others.
    I had to find a liquidator and Director of a company called Fresh prepared. The company was really owned by Terry Hay a rich Americana business man and business partner of David Nathan .

    Hay “sold” the company to Sanjay patel who put it into liquidation. I am a private investigator and had to locate Sanjay and Bahubhai Patel. so when I repeatedly rung the company which Mr Sanjay Patel purportedly owned and called at the address given on the companies register I was taken to court for harassment by Terry Hay and Lyn Pryor .

    fortunately for me the National enforcement unit of the MED became involved and both lyn Pryor and terry Hay were charged with 22 counts of fraud . Pryor negotiated a deal and entered a plea of guilty . Hay skipped to Honolulu and came back 5 years later paid off Crown law and had the charges dropped ( yes I have evidence )

    the other instance was using defamation , I questioned the lack of existence of a private law enforcement authority .I wish I had had Judge Wilson. My deference of truth and honest opinion was stuck out and we didn’t even have a formal proof, it went straight to Quantum. I had to pay $41,000 costs and $57500 in damages for speaking the truth.

    Perhaps times are a changing.

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  17. wikiriwhis business (3,996 comments) says:

    We’re told to speak the truth in love from the Bible which is wisdom par excellence.

    Attitude is everything.

    A soft word turneth away anger.

    When people use truth as a weapon it’s not long before they corrupt truth to their own means.

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  18. anticorruptionnz (215 comments) says:

    Must add Terry Hay harassed me but it was deemed to be harassment.

    He paid $10 to place three advertisments in the Mandarin times .
    1. had me selling a late model car at bargain basement prices . my phone ran hot
    2. Placed my Epsom house up for rent at a very cheap price.. call at address. I had half of china here
    3. Accounts lady wanted send fax… this wasn’t popular at all or perhaps they couldnt get through because the phone was engaged due to the car sale.

    this was all done the day before I went to court on the false harassment claim so as to enure I was distracted

    the judge made me sign an undertaking . they then took me back to court for contempt the following year because the press had published the outcome of the prosecution . It cost me $49,000 in lawyers fees.

    He probably wrote it off to his companies as a tax write off . for me it was 2 years wages.

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